OSS responds to increase in criminal calls on-campus

SPU is experiencing an increase of on-campus crimes in 2021, OSS identifies trends

Carlos Snellenberg-Fraser, Staff Writer

The Office of Safety and Security at Seattle Pacific University. (Sydney Lorton)

Over the last year, COVID-19 forced remote learning and less foot traffic on-campus, but now SPU is seeing a spike in crime. 

On May 17 a mentally-ill woman, who was not associated with SPU, entered Emerson Hall through a door that was propped open and began to enter unlocked rooms. 

The Seattle Police Department was contacted to assist OSS in their response and after refusing crisis resources, the woman left campus. 

On May 18, an unidentified man, who was not associated with SPU, followed a female student into the Hill Hall lobby late at night. Within minutes, OSS was on-site and the man fled. The Seattle Police Department did not respond to the call since the man had left. 

These are just two examples of recent incidents that have occured on the SPU campus. 

Mark Reid, Director of Safety and Security, identified a few trends of crimes and incidents that take place on-campus. 

“I would say on most days, we have someone who walks through campus and tries a lot of doors to see what building they can get into. A lot of times they are homeless individuals, sometimes they are looking for a place to sleep, sometimes they are looking to get quick money,” Reid said. 

Reid said that OSS has encountered numerous calls in which heroin needles are involved and that there is a trend of heroin users near campus. 

When it comes to reporting on-campus crimes, the Clery Act identifies very specific incidents that must be reported. Due to the definition of campus geography in the Clery Act, the school does not report crimes that are not on-campus or on the sidewalk across the street from campus. 

In 2019, there were a total of 262 criminal activity calls on-campus. In 2020, there were a total of 194 criminal calls on-campus. And so far, in 2021, there have been 121 criminal calls in the 147 days that have passed this year, speaking to an increase in criminal calls at SPU. 

“We are in the middle of an urban area with a lot of people who are not part of our community intermixing and travelling through the campus every day. They have no idea about our community standards or behavioral expectations,” Reid explained. 

Reid explained that criminal perpetrators are coming from outside of Seattle. Due to a spike in resignations of police officers within the Seattle Police Department leading to a lack of law enforcement within the city, OSS is facing an increasingly difficult job combatting on-campus crime. 

OSS has implemented an updated access control system with better memory capabilities that has allowed students to access buildings and resources while keeping them safe. 

“One of the things I have seen over the years is that students tend to buy into the program they are in… They tend to be very responsible when we give them access to work on specialized equipment related to their program,” Reid said. 

While the campus is experiencing a spike in crime this year, including ATM burglaries at BECU, OSS remains hopeful for the coming year.

“I think right now we are hopeful that we can get back to a new normal. There will be some changes from how we did things prior to COVID,” Reid described. “We are communicating in a different way… in terms of safety and security, we will see more buildings relying on the access control system because it has worked so well.”